BEIJING — Premier Li Keqiang will attend a series of leaders’ meeting on East Asia cooperation from Nov 12 to Nov 14 in Myanmar and pay a visit to the country, in a tour expected to open a new chapter in the development of China-ASEAN relations.
As this year marks the start of a “Diamond Decade” for cooperation between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Li’s tour is expected to promote regional cooperation in East Asia and contribute to safeguarding regional peace and stability and advancing China-Myanmar comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.
NEW PHASE FOR CHINA-ASEAN COOPERATION
Both China and ASEAN have labeled the past ten years as a “Golden Decade” for their relations and have coined the term “Diamond Decade” for the next 10 years, which they hope will feature upgrading of bilateral relations and more practical cooperation.
In October 2013, President Xi Jinping visited Indonesia and Malaysia and Premier Li visited Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam. Such intensive visits to the same region by Chinese leaders highlighted the importance China attaches to ASEAN and enabled the China-ASEAN relations to enter into a new phase.
Shortly after the two leaders returned home following the South East Asia visits, China held its first symposium on diplomacy with neighboring regions, in which diplomacy with neighboring regions was promoted to an unprecedentedly high level, Jiang Ruiping, deputy director of China Foreign Affairs University, said, adding that ASEAN is a priority in China’s diplomacy with neighboring regions.
Since last year, China has put forward a series of important proposals such as building a community of shared destiny with ASEAN countries and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, as well as establishing “an upgraded version” of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area and the “2+7 (two political consensuses and seven areas of cooperation) cooperation framework,” which has drawn positive response from ASEAN countries.
China’s latest initiative to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has earned extensive support and 21 Asian countries have inked a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing the multilateral lender headquartered in Beijing with an expected initial subscribed capital of $50 billion.
China and ASEAN have seen steady growth in bilateral trade, with expansion of two-day investment and deepening of mutually beneficial cooperation.
China-ASEAN trade reached $443.6 billion in 2013, up 11 percent from the previous year and hit $346.4 billion from January to September 2014, up 7.5 percent from the same period of last year.
By the end of September, mutual investment had reached $123.1 billion. China and ASEAN have cooperated on a variety of projects in electric power generation, bridge construction, agriculture and manufacturing.
The China-ASEAN Investment Cooperation Fund established by China has promoted the economic development of ASEAN countries and benefited the local population.
SEEKING BREAKTHROUGH IN “DIAMOND DECADE”
How to make a breakthrough in the next ten years relies on three aspects.
First, implementing the already elaborated strategies and initiatives is the basis.
At the 17th China-ASEAN leaders’ meeting, the Chinese side will continue to promote the building of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and actively implement the “2+7 Cooperation Framework,” Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said.
At the 17th ASEAN-China, Japan and the Republic of Korea leaders’ meeting, China will stress the implementation of the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan 2013-2017, Liu said.
At the 9th East Asia Summit, China will urge all concerned parties to implement the action plan of the Phnom Penh Declaration on the East Asia Summit Development Initiative, Liu said.
Second, China hopes all concerned parties will accelerate the process of regional economic integration and make efforts toward the goal of East Asian Economic Community in 2020, Liu said.
China hopes all related parties will enhance communication and cooperation in finance, ocean, security, culture, and inter-connectivity and mutual access, while fostering cooperation in disaster management as well as countering terrorism, infectious disease and climate change, he added.
Ruan Zongze, vice president of China Institute of International Studies, said the breakthrough should be made in building an upgraded version of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, enhancing inter-connectivity and mutual access, and promoting people-to-people exchange and maritime cooperation.
Assistant Commerce Minister Tong Daochi said China and ASEAN in September held the first round of negotiations on upgrading the bilateral free trade area and both parties will speed up negotiations to yield fruits at an early date.
Third, how to realize strategic coherence is significant to both China and ASEAN.
The initiative on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, an important strategic path to connect China and ASEAN countries, is a Chinese version of global inter-connectivity and mutual access with multiparty inclusiveness, said Zhai Kun, a Peking University professor.
The initiative has drawn positive response from some ASEAN countries such as Thailand and Myanmar. Indonesia put forward a plan to use its maritime assets, which has much coherence with China’s initiative, Ruan said.
ADVANCING CHINA-MYANMAR RELATIONS
After attending the leaders’ meeting on East Asia cooperation, Li will pay a visit to Myanmar on Nov 14, his first since taking office.
In a meeting with Myanmar’s President U Thein Sein in Beijing on Nov 8, Li said that he expects his visit to build up political consensus on the development of China-Myanmar relations of good neighborliness and friendship, promote construction of the economic corridor linking Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar, and push forward cooperation in related major projects of inter-connectivity and mutual access.
He also expressed the hope that his visit can cement the people-to-people and nongovernmental exchanges between the two countries, so as to elevate the China-Myanmar comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership to a new high and benefit the two peoples.
Zhang Yunling, director of Academic Division of International Studies under Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, expressed high expectations about Li’s visit and the future development of the China-Myanmar relations.
Ruan Zongze, vice president of China Institute of International Studies, said the visit will enhance mutual political trust between China and ASEAN as well as between China and Myanmar, manage and control differences in an approach of development and turn differences into potential aspects for cooperation, in efforts to usher in a new phase in the China-ASEAN and China-Myanmar relations.